Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Meringue Cookies: Tiny Fat-Free Pillows That Melt In Your Mouth; Using Leftover Ingredients Can Be Sweet


I honestly thought I was finished with my Easter baking 'test-kitchen' but I found I had six egg whites left over from yesterday's cookies that I just couldn't bring myself to throw out. Meringue cookies immediately came to mind. I'd made these several years ago and didn't save the recipe but the ingredients are remarkably minimal and the whole process of preparing the cookies is quite easy.

Meringue cookies melt in your mouth. With a crisp outer shell, the insides are a bit like a toasted marshmallow and they kind of just disappear as quickly as they are ingested. As I gazed at the meringues while they were were baking in the oven, I thought they would make a fun topping for an ice cream sundae and I'm pretty sure I saw them being used in a parfait on Rachel Ray a couple of months ago. But by themselves or mixed with cake or ice cream, these pretty confections make a positive impression on a dessert buffet. Did I mention they are fat free!!

My amoeba-shaped first try!
The recipe I used called for superfine sugar and you can accomplish this by putting regular sugar in the food processor for a half minute or so. The meringues are baked in a low and slow oven which promotes a gradual evaporation of the moisture from the meringues. Rain and humidity affect the cookies as well and you'll have to bake them for a longer time if those are the conditions.

I made three different colors, adding food coloring as I completed a batch. I made a white set first and added almonds and chocolate sprinkles to their tops. The meringues can be spooned onto parchment paper or piped out through a pastry bag. I decided to use the bag, though I'm very inexperienced at it, and some of the meringues are quite 'interesting' looking. I got better as I went along and I think the pink batch came out the best.

This cookie does have a sort of history, European in origin but dubious about the country where they were first invented. This is from Wikipedia:
The notion that meringue was invented in the Swiss town of Meiringen by an Italian chef named Gasparini is contested. It is more probable that the name meringue for this confection first appeared in print in Fran├žois Massialot's cookbook of 1692.  The word meringue first appeared in English in 1706 in an English translation of Massialot's book. Two considerably earlier seventeenth-century English manuscript books of recipes give instructions for confections that are recognizable as meringue, though called "white biskit bread" in the book of recipes started in 1604 by Lady Elinor Fettiplace (c. 1570 - c. 1647) of Appleton in Berkshire (now in Oxfordshire),[4] or called "pets" in the manuscript of collected recipes written by Lady Rachel Fane (1612/13 - 1680), of Knole, Kent. 
Meringue Cookies
Ingredients: 
6 large egg whites 
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 and a half cups of superfine or caster sugar (if you don't have superfine sugar take granulated white sugar and process it for about 30 seconds in a food processor)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Garnish: (optional):
I used sliced almonds and chocolate sprinkles but I could see mini M&Ms on top or mini- chocolate chips. I saw a recipe that called for pecans mixed in the meringue, probably with a delicious result!

Directions: 
  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • Form the cookies with a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain tip or use a spoon to make the cookies. 
  • In the bowl of your electric mixer beat the egg whites on low-medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue to beat the whites until they hold soft peaks. Add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. Beat in the vanilla extract
  • Note: Meringue is done when it holds stiff peaks. If the mixture feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved. Keep beating until it feels smooth. Divide and add food coloring if desired.
  • Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch tip. Add optional toppings. 
  • Bake the meringues for approximately 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, rotating the baking sheet to ensure even baking. The meringues are done when they are pale in color and fairly crisp. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in the oven to finish drying overnight.
  • Makes about 30 mini-meringues

I couldn't find the Rachel Ray Meringue Parfait but this looks delicious as well:

1 comment:

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